The boss of the UK’s largest tour operator has called on the government to be as willing to add destinations to its list of ‘safe’ countries as quickly as it is willing to remove them.
Tui’s UK managing director Andrew Flintham believes the implementation of scientific advice should be possible just as fast in either direction, whether removing destinations from the list of countries the Foreign Office advises against and allows travel to.
The government has said it will move to warn against all but essential travel to countries it deems unsafe, and has done so in the case of Serbia since it released its initial two lists of ‘safe’ destinations, announced on July 3.
But it is understood that relaxing restrictions to additional countries will only be done at the next overall review, meaning new countries won’t be added to the ‘safe’ lists until the end of the month.
Speaking to Travel Weekly in Ibiza, on a media trip to promote the return of Tui’s programme, Flintham said: “We completely get that the government may say the data is going in a certain direction and that it may remove destinations [from FCO advice]. What we would ask them is that they are equivalently flexible when they add destinations.”
He noted that “significant destinations” for Tui, such as Bulgaria, Portugal, Cape Verde and countries in North Africa, which have been left off the lists, could be brought back on sale quickly if the government relaxed advice.
“We want them to bring destinations back the second the science says it’s OK, not just for us but the whole travel industry,” he said. “The government has received a consistent degree of push back from the industry on the point that it needs to be equivalent.
“If they wait 28 days, we could be missing the chance for a significant potential number of people to be going on holiday in safe destinations.”
Flintham said the government’s initial travel corridor lists had been “confusing” for holidaymakers and a “challenge” for tour operators to communicate to their customers.
“The big job we’ve had is explaining to customers where they can and can’t go,” he said, adding that deciphering the differences between the list of countries from where arrivals don’t need to self-isolate and the separate list of countries the Foreign Office no longer advises against all but essential travel to was “not easy to digest”.
He also criticised the Scottish government’s decision to omit Spain from its list of ‘safe’ countries despite it being allowed by England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and said it was “impossible” for tour operators such as Tui to police where passengers arrive at the airport from – noting that some Scots could fly to Spain from airports such as Newcastle.